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Along The Pacific Coast Highway Lawrence Goeckel

The landlady found him this morning            before the swimming pools opened their eyes       Sprinklers hissing as the city runs dry       Found him halfway in the ice box, as if the body crawled by itself, seeking refrigeration       The jaw of the corpse sticking out, disputing the facts       In a delirium straight out of chain smoking Latin American literature       The corners where the white walls meet the ceiling, hairy with shadow       

The best of me is missing to a hangover     I feel like  a painting with the eyes cut out      I look through the dead guy’s crap for the hell of it, using a pencil to dump a few things with nothing to do with the crime into plastic bags       “Death exposes what we spend our lives trying to conceal,”  I tell a couple of rookies      All of the other old timers are off today, drinking vodka tonics or fucking someone else’s wife, working on books where the characters are all dead and the writer’s trying to interest readers in the layout of the furniture    

The body’s just a bookmark for a shipyard cook who’s going to lose a few nights of watching television       A cheap detective novel folded between pages 73 and 74, where the cops talk like this:
            Life starts with a few words on a
            birth certificate.  Then there’s a
            lot of paperwork.  Right before
            someone’s  name gets carved on
            a tombstone, I get called in
            to figure out what went wrong . . .

A pile of bills that won’t get paid anytime soon sits on the back of the couch, tossed into a hat     Everything is permanently unfinished, except for the redhead from the escort agency he called last night, sitting on the couch with a high heel dangling off of her left foot, offering her boredom as an alibi ever since she got picked up this morning     

A cop in the kitchen encroaches on the nothingness the victim has created for himself, holding a dead arm up and looking at the wrist watch       Another examines an errant hair growing from the dead man’s ear       “The victim woke up and found the redhead helping herself to his wallet,” I write     “Gut shot with his own gun in the ensuing struggle.”       I flip my notebook closed with great drama and step outside       A dog yawns on the lawn       The wind pushes the leaves into a new pattern on the sidewalk       The six on the door is really a nine hanging by its foot from a nail

Reporters and cops stand around the yard like there’s a party inside       The redhead comes out with a jacket wrapped around her head, on the way to an unseen cruiser       They’ve wrapped the other evidence in plastic and put it in the trunk       A pair of size twelve feet sticking out from a gurney sheet is all the public gets to see       The cop cars move away slowly, as if hoping somebody will break from a building and run for it       The neighborhood fades into movie screen blue

As I drive towards the Pacific Coast Highway, the police helicopter beacon scatters a herd of white goats in Topanga canyon     A shudder moves across the valley     I’m so beat, my dreams throw it in reverse and back over me, trying to finish themselves while I’m still awake     The city lights wash out the sky, leaving a few worn out stars that nobody bothers to look at anymore     This enormous planet, somehow held in place by unending night, is like a stolen car with its brake lines cut, headed for its last tree